Synthesis Topics

• Terminal Capacity Challenges in Crisis Recovery

This synthesis study will examine how US and International airports have responded to the capacity "crunch" caused by the current COVID crisis due to the need to provide for increased social distancing, infection testing, vaccination documentation verification, etc... Such an analysis will not only help disseminate ideas to assist airports in the short run as airports emerge from this crisis but will also provide guidance on how terminals ought to be designed in the future to handle similar "black swan" events.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

As a consequence of 9/11 government security authorities imposed new regulations mandating that all baggage be screened using CTX technology. At the time this technology was considerably slower than conventional baggage x-ray which necessitated the addition of many more of these very large units within terminals. This in turn led to a space challenge, particularly for older terminals already closer to their design capacity limits. Similar challenges may be expected as communities gradually exit the current COVID crisis. Returning traffic volumes coupled with lingering (or possibly permanent) associated public health requirements such as minimal social distancing, infection testing stations, vaccination document checks, etc. may constitute a similar spatial challenge for airport authorities. This synthesis study will examine how US and international airports have met (or are planning to meet) the emerging challenges of accommodating public health threats, past and present and future.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

This overview will hopefully provide a helpful playbook to guide operators in the current and future crises and also guide terminal planning decisions to ensure that adequate flexibility is maintained with regard to capacity to meet the challenges of an uncertain future.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

The researchers will:

- inventory the capacity challenges airports have faced due to the recent health or past security threats.

- document how airports have changed operations, reconfigured facilities , expanded or otherwise altered their terminal complexes to meet the required needs. 

- solicit airport operators views on what has worked and what has not worked in meeting this capacity challenge.

- solicit feedback from operators and draw any evident conclusions on what might have been done differently leading up to these events so as to minimize the negative impacts on passengers, operators and governments.

- identify evident conflicting objectives among stakeholders that impact on addressing this problem long term such as the desire by airlines operators to minimize terminal costs versus the mandate of government inspection services to safeguard safety and security. 

- produce a guidebook documenting best practices in meeting capacity immediate capacity shortfalls and providing guidance to terminal planners and designers on how to take account of such emergencies in the future (e.g. allocate surplus space to commercial activities which can be rapidly recovered for operations if required)

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

ACRP Report 25 addresses Airport Terminal Design. This study would compliment this very popular ACRP publication by acknowledging that airport terminal are subject to such capacity shocks and suggesting how designs might be altered to accommodate the vicissitudes of an uncertain future (e.g. ensuring that one of the gates is in the form of a bus station so that remote terminal operations can be mobilized in the case of a capacity emergency)

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Idea No. 786